The challenging economic climate is taking ATDI’s planning expertise into a new area – finance.
The company is now intimately involved in the business plan of a number of organisations as developers seek an answer to the thorny question of how to reconcile the next generation of wind farms with air traffic radar systems.
Turbines can cause a number of different problems for radar operators ranging from the appearance of clutter on radar screens to the temporary disappearance of aircraft. The people behind wind farms need to ensure that civilian and military radars in an area still work properly once the structures have been erected. To achieve this, renewable energy companies plan to spent more than £200 million on 11 new mobile radar systems for military operators – or, rather, their banks will spend £200 million.
“Long gone are the days when banks might have been cavalier with money,” says ATDI managing director Cyprien de Cosson. “Now, the financial institutions want everything 100% iron clad and set in stone before they will consider lending. So, when the energy companies wanted £200 million to buy radars, the banks said: show us why you need the money and how it is going to help you make a profit in the long run.”
ATDI’s planning and modelling skills have been invaluable in demonstrating the impact turbines can have on radars and how to mitigate those effects. Through this kind of work, banks have been able to see the black-and-white proof that the new radars are needed and that they will work effectively.
The deal the energy companies did over buying the mobile radars was with the Ministry of Defence and air traffic controllers, meaning that all parties were ATDI customers. “ATDI has always prided itself on being a link between affected groups in any situation,” Cyprien says. “It is rather gratifying to think that all the parties involved in this deal are people we know well.”
He adds: “What this agreement shows more than anything is that financial planning is as essential as the planning and modelling of radio waves. It’s something we’ve been saying for quite some time. No commercial customer we have had in our 15 years wants to pay for something unless they will make a profit from it eventually, and wind farms, with the multi-billion-pound investments they represent, are no different to anybody else.
“From this point, with the banks wanting exceeding low risk in their investments, planning and modelling companies are going to have to be more involved with their customers’ budgeting than ever.”